Friday, April 9, 2010

Movie Review - An Education

The Jackie Report

An Education - ***

Directed by: Lone Scherig

Starring:  Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Emma Watson

Note from the Jeff Report:  This will be my first ever guest blog on this site.  It is rare to meet someone who enjoys and has as many opinions about movies as I do.  Luckily for me I am friends with just such a person who has so graciously offered to write a companion movie review for this movie.  I will also provide a short synopsis of my thoughts on this film.  So without further ado, here is my first ever guest blog by my friend Jackie:

Review:  I was looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I heard it was nominated for best picture. While I don’t know that I would rank it among the years’ best, this movie is an enjoyable diversion and well worth seeing. “An Education” is remarkable in the fact that it takes one of Hollywood’s most played out clichés (Older man dates much younger woman) and manages to make it relevant. The reason that this movie stands out among many of the more trite offerings that populate this genre is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time obsessing over the fact that its protagonist, Jenny (played by an excellent Carey Mulligan) is nearly twenty years younger than the dashing older man she falls for, David (Peter Sarsgaard).

Instead, this movie uses the difference in age between the characters as a vehicle for exploring Jenny’s own personal and sexual awakening. Set in 1960s London, Jenny is first introduced to us as a high school student who writes A+ papers for her English Literature class and dreams of going to Oxford. While she enjoys hanging out with her high school friends and occasionally dates one of the boys in her orchestra class, Jenny often complains that she feels bored and stifled. This all changes when she meets David. David is handsome and well connected. He runs among London’s elite and introduces Jenny to a world of high fashion, classical music, and jazz clubs. Jenny is instantly captivated and allows her grades to slip in favor of getting an education in the real world.

The problem is that David is not what he seems. On a weekend trip to Paris, Jenny learns that David and his friends finance their lavish lifestyle by stealing from the wealthy. Upon discovering this truth, Jenny feels betrayed, but soon comes to accept David’s activities as a small price to pay for continuing to enjoy the opulent existence to which she has become accustomed. Back home, Jenny’s teachers have noticed Jenny’s poor academic performance and caution her against becoming too enchanted with David’s frivolous ways. The headmistress of Jenny’s school (played by the ever reliable Emma Thompson) even cautions Jenny that if she “gives up the best part of herself” to David, she will no longer be welcomed back as a student.

On the other end of the spectrum you have Jenny’s parents (they steal the show with some of the best lines in the movie), who after getting over their initial trepidations, are supportive of the relationship. Jenny’s mother in particular seems to acknowledge that there is some value in allowing Jenny to have these experiences. She, like Jenny is wowed by David’s charm and applauds her daughter for having the opportunity to attend London’s best parties and rub elbows with the famous. Most of all, Jenny’s parents can see that David makes Jenny truly happy and they wisely allow her the freedom to explore this happiness.

When more secrets are revealed about David in the final reel, we see that while he has helped Jenny find herself, he still has a lot of growing up to do. Jenny is forced to make some hard decisions and must come to grips with the fact that some lessons are best learned inside the classroom and loving someone is not enough to ensure that life will be perfect. While this movie is in no way groundbreaking and is a bit slow at times, it remains endearing throughout. “An Education’s” true success lies in the casting of Mulligan who manages to seem equally at home in the high school as she does in high society. If for nothing else, her performance is well worth the rental.

Jackie—Reporting for the Jeff Report.

The Jeff Report

An Education - ***

Review:  So I was a little leery about this movie, even after hearing it got nominated for best picture.  Normally I like the smaller british movies though so it was definitely worth a shot.  What I got was a decently entertaining film.

The movie centers around a young girl who is in a private school in England and working hard so she can one day go to Oxford.  Her parents want her to go to Oxford so she can get an education and eventually a good job.  The girl wants to go to Oxford so she has the freedom to do what she wants.  She can read what she wants, watch what she wants, go where she wants, whatever strikes her.  It is this yearning for living life that allows this girl's life to take on an unusual twist.  

One day while walking home from orchestra practice this girl meets a man who takes a liking to her and ends up showing her the life she's always dreamed of.  She meets intellectual people, gets to buy art, listen to live music, go to exotic places, etc.  She is smitten with this man to the point where she agrees to marry him.  I will stop there as there are a few twists and turns after she accepts his marriage proposal. 

The movie is enjoyable and contains some very good performances from Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, and Alfred Molina.  Molina especially surprised me with his performance.  I didn't think he would bring much to the table but he did.

Ultimately, my problem with this movie was that I thought it was too sure of itself.  It reminded me a lot of the movie 'Closer' in which all the characters knew too well the right thing to say.  They all had too much confidence in what they were saying and the dialog was at times not quite believable coming from the characters.  This is a case where the movie may have been too well written.

In the end, despite the problems, I would say the movie is worth your time.  It was enjoyable.

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